ISLAMABAD: Experts speaking at a webinar on Saturday termed the China-Iran 25-year-long new cooperation framework a historic milestone to further strengthen the Chinese influence in the region and Middle East.

It will not only extend the Chinese market for trade and economic growth but is also poised to disturb the balance of power in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The financial cooperation will help Iran dilute its isolation and enhance trade ties with China and Middle Eastern countries. At a time when Iran is struggling with the restrictions and the devastating impact of Covid-19, this development is a welcome relief, they observed.

The speakers also questioned if this deal would lead to a win-win situation for all. Beijing has not only secured an alternative access to hydrocarbons but has also further strengthened its influence across the Indian Ocean.

This deal might come as a surprise for many given the Indian investments in Iran.

China has nurtured friendly relations with Iran over the decade and has signed over 17 agreements worth $18-20 billion with Tehran and promised to increase trade ties between the two countries in the next 10 years. This would bid a dent to the US interests in the region.

The webinar was organized by Development Communications Network on the theme “China-Iran new framework of cooperation – prospects for regional security and economic growth”.

The panel of experts included former ISI chief and strategic analyst retired Lt Gen Asad Durrani, senior research fellow at the Chengdu Institute of World Affairs Dr Dan Ge, CPEC expert Hassan Daud Butt, research fellow at the Tehran International Studies and Research Institute Dr Ehsan Sadeghi, research fellow at East-West Institute (London) Dr Najam Abbas and Devcom Executive Director Munir Ahmed.

General Durrani said this accord is a masterly move on the global chessboard. In the environment in which the Iranian nuclear deal is being revisited, the US is ratcheting up its China containment campaign, and is at sixes and sevens on exiting from Afghanistan.

“Indirect talks on the nuclear agreement are already in the pipeline. [US President Joe] Biden may fast track its lingering withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan. Even India must be reviewing its regional positioning. Pakistan indeed is a big gainer. Its initiative on regional consensus building is going places.

It would be a deep dent to the US-India common interests in the region, and may help Iran bring the US back to the nuclear deal that the US had already opted out unilaterally, he said.

Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2021

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